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IMPATIENT AIKMAN ANXIOUS TO MEND

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Troy Aikman's doctor predicted 12 weeks of rehabilitation before the Dallas Cowboys quarterback could safely return to action.

After about two of those weeks, the most valuable player in the Super Bowl has made his own schedule, and it's a lot shorter.Aikman, who underwent surgery June 19 to repair a herniated disc, says he'll be in Austin when the team opens training camp next week. He expects to play in two preseason games so he'll be in shape for the Sept. 6 opener against Washington.

"I am anticipating reporting with the team come a week from Thursday and begin some light throwing at that time," Aikman said Tuesday in a conference call from Los Angeles, where he is recuperating.

Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed the surgery, has said Aikman should play it safe and stay out for close to three months.

But under Aikman's timetable, he'll go through his first full workout in five or six more weeks - leaving him plenty of time to be ready for the Washington game.

"I've been joking around with the therapist and the doctor," Aikman said. "I've kind of set my own schedule for myself and I've just got to keep them informed as to what it is."

On Monday, Aikman began a rehabilitation regimen of strength and flexibility exercises that don't stress his lower back.

Therapists told him he started workouts a week earlier than most people would after such surgery.

"I think they (therapists) were a little surprised that I was able to do some of the exercises," he said.

The resilient quarterback added he doesn't understand the pessimism surrounding his comeback.

"No one seems to be as optimistic as I am," he said.